Aug 132014
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Folklorama festival in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Imagine experiencing the food, culture, and entertainment of 40 countries without leaving the boundaries of one city. Folklorama festival in Winnipeg, Manitoba offers just that.

Every evening during the first two weeks of August, community clubs, schools, and other buildings throughout the city become home to cultural pavilions. Visitors can purchase traditional food and drink, view cultural displays, and watch ethnic entertainment. There are usually 3 show times per evening at each pavilion with performances typically running 30 to 45 minutes. Weekend late night parties at some pavilions provide dancing opportunities.

Folklorama began in 1970 as a celebration for Manitoba’s centennial. There were 21 pavilions. It grew into an annual one-week event and now runs for two weeks with each week featuring different pavilions. 2014 saw 19 pavilions in the first week and 24 in the second. Pavilions are sponsored by community associations and run by volunteers. A total of 20,000 volunteers make Folklorama happen.

Folklorama cultural displays

Cultural displays; Elephants at the India pavilion (elephants are the provincial animal of the Kerala region), information on Ireland, Gaelic phrases, and Chilean jewelry

I remember attending Folklorama when I was in my twenties and the festival was still a one-week event. The challenge was to try and visit every pavilion. It could be done if one attended every evening, carefully planned visits to minimize travel time, and didn’t need to be terribly productive at work during the days. These days I am not that ambitious, but I do try to visit a few pavilions every year, balancing returns to old favourites with visits to new or new-to-me pavilions. So far this year I’ve made it to the Ireland-Irish Pavilion, the Chilean Pavilion, and the India Pavilion.

Folklorama food

Irish stew, cheese empanadas, butter chicken platter

Over the years, I’ve seen limbo dancers, fire eaters, Capoeira performances, tango dancing, river dancing, and ethnic folk dancing. I’ve heard Japanese drummers, steel bands, bagpipes, and oompah bands. I’ve eaten jerk chicken, goat curry, empanadas, Irish stew, sarma, souvlaki, paella, perogies, holubtsi, bratwurst, German tortes, and flan. 

Folklorama Irish Pavillion

Entertainment at the Ireland-Irish Pavilion (Cead Mile Failte means “a hundred thousand welcomes”)

Folklorama Chilean band

Band members of Chile Lucha Y Canta at Chilean Pavilion accompanied the group’s dancers. Chile Y Canta was created in 1976 after the first Chilean immigrants arrived in Winnipeg. Currently the group has over 60 members ranging from age 4 to 70.

Folklorama Indian dancing

Sampling of dance performances at India Pavilion

At the start of the show at the India Pavilion the crowd stood while the Canadian national anthem and the Indian national anthem were played. I attended the final show at the Chilean Pavilion. At the end of that show, we stood and sang the Canadian national anthem while images of Canada scrolled across a screen above the stage. We remained standing as the entertainers and other Chileans in the crowd sang the Chilean national anthem and images of Chile scrolled across the screen. These moments seem fitting symbols for the essence of Folklorama.

Have you attended Folklorama? Do you have a favourite pavilion? Have you attended a similar festival elsewhere?

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  42 Responses to “Around The World In One City”

  1. WOW, I would love this festival, especially the food… well maybe the shopping too… LOL. I do enjoy festivals. We have many where we live. My favorite is the Strawberry Festival. It’s no where near what you describe, but fun nonetheless. 🙂

  2. These kinds of festivals are a great way for people to experience other cultures. I sometimes wonder what it would be like if the countries represented had a similar festival in their own country. Showcasing countries like America with its relative lack of tradition and food. I remember going to Epcot in the 80’s and thought that was amazing as they featured almost every country. If I’m in the area I will look out for Folklorama…even the name is cool.

    • It would be interesting to see how the US or Canada might be represented in a festival in a foreign country. Although traditions may not be as long-standing as some places, there are certainly traditions and food that could be showcased. It may be hard to pick national representatives though – there are a lot of regional traditions.

  3. Folklorama wounds like so much fun. There are a few smaller festivals I’ve been to, but none on this scale. America and Canada definitely has traditions that could be showcased in such festivals, but it would be hard to decide what to focus on since there is so much variety in such huge countries.

    • I agree it can be hard to know what to focus on for Canada and U.S. There is a Franco-Canadien pavilion at this year’s Folklorama. It has been a staple for many years. There was an aboriginal pavilion for a number of years as well, although not this year. I can’t remember if there ever was a U.S. pavilion. Some community association would have needed to sponsor it and be prepared to run it.

  4. Looks like a great event Donna. I think I’d be pretty happy just walking around sampling the food.

  5. I think it’s wonderful when communities hold these type of events to celebrate the cultural diversity that lies within. There are similar events in Toronto with Caribana / Taste of the Danforth etc. In Canada, among many other countries, it doesn’t take a trip back too many generations to see we are a mosaic of International components and it is great that the work of 20,000 volunteers in Winnipeg paved the way for so many to taste the sounds, sights and culinary offerings of their neighbours’ heritage. Nice post, Donna.

  6. Wow, you sure have seen and done a lot in your time, Donna! 🙂

    I like watching dancing the best. At a cancer fundraiser I went to recently, I was able to see a beautiful dance that brought tears to my eyes. It’s amazing how dancers can tell stories by simply moving their bodies certain ways, isn’t it?

  7. Hi Donna, what an interesting festival – I would love to attend one like that. I think learning about the different cultures is fascinating.The only thing I’ve come close to is a native PowWow at one of the local reserves. That was pretty impressive but small scale compared to Folkarama.

  8. Wow, Folklorama sounds awesome! I miss these multicultural types of events. Nice pics as well!

  9. Splendid! Sounds like you can eat your way around the world!

  10. Food, entertainment, colour! What’s not to love! I also love festivals and I’m just about to write about an annual tulip festival that takes place in the south west with … you guess it … lots of food, flowers and colour! Thanks for taking me to a really interesting multicultural event today though!

  11. Wow, looks like so much fun! We always loved summer festivals in Minnesota. The biggest one for years was Taste of Minnesota, but this one looks enormous. Nothing better than noshing your way through!

    • There used to be a festival in Winnipeg called Taste of Manitoba where assorted restaurants set up in a downtown park and offered a small version of a couple of their signature dishes. You purchased a set of tickets that could be turned in at the various booths to try one of the dishes. The festival no longer runs. Is Taste of Minnesota similar to that? You have to love any kind of festival that features food.

  12. What a fun way to celebrate the end of summer!

  13. Love the shots of the Indian dancers. What a great sounding festival!

  14. We absolutely love festivals. Any time, any place. This looks like a good one.

  15. What a great way to immerse yourself in so many cultures! I love all the photos, especially the dancers. I would love to attend this festival!!

  16. Folkorama sounds like a mini Worlds’ Fair with exhibits and performances on a much more accessible scale. Fun and it looks like some good eats too.

  17. Sounds like a wonderful festival! I wish they would do something like this in CT, where I live. Sure sounds like a lot of fun….and delicious food, too!

  18. What a great festival! We have individual ethnic festivals through the summer but not like this. Our diversity is something I love about Canada. We can ‘travel the world’ without leaving home.

  19. Hello Donna. This post on Folklorama in Winnipeg beings back such memories. I’m delighted that it is going strong after all these years. Enjoy your wonderful city!

  20. What a fabulous festival! If I ever get back to Winnipeg, it will have to be in August.

  21. This looks like so much fun. I sure do wish they would offer something like this where I live. Manitoba becomes a more attractive place to visit with each post I read on your blog!

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